Image via: Flickr.com
Like it or not, some people still won't go solar based on aesthetics alone. Crazy, huh? Well, Solar Botanic is hoping to corner that market with solar trees that are pleasing to the eye and capitalize on movement from solar, wind and heat generated, reports Fast Company. But can they actually get them to work?The owners of Solar Botanic decided to get past the aesthetic issue by making something that is already found in nature - that should be pleasing to the eye, right? Plus, they considered all of the different ways that trees could generate and convert energy and they had found their match. Currently, the trees are still in the test phase and are estimated to sell for between $12,000 and $20,000 USD, with one tree being enough to power an entire home. The trees generate electricity in three ways: 1. solar panels on the "nanoleaves" generate electricity, 2. heat generated by the tree will be converted into thermoelectric energy, and 3. piezoelectric nanogenerators on the branches (the petioles) will convert kinetic energy from the wind moving the branches into electricity. Solar Botanic Inc is looking to create the trunks out of recycled plastic and tires, or out of liquified biomass from wood itself.
But here's the hitch: clearly black panels work better for solar, but you run into the aesthetic issue again, so these panels will have to be green (not as efficient) and also green leaves will not generate enough heat for the thermoelectric portion of the tree to work. Compounded with the fact that the panels will have to be light enough for wind to rustle the "leaves" to generate kinetic energy and it seems these trees are going to be slow to take root.
At 13.5 cents per watt, the trees are nowhere near cost competitive with other energy sources, yet, though the designers say "forests" of these trees could power entire towns. Just wait 'til homeowners associations get a load of these - and they thought they had something to complain about now. A more likely launch into the market will involve installing the trees in parking lots and over parking structures. Solar Botanics is not ready to throw in the towel yet and is still working with perfecting this growing idea, and hopes to bring a product to market in the next 3 years. :Fast Company
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